For those who don’t know, I love Bandol. I have a cat named Tempier, named after the most famous and my favourite Bandol producer. With that in my mind I was up early and ready to go. Before getting to Bandol (it’s a VERY long drive), I had Barolo and Barbaresco to explore. On a grey, drizzly and cold morning I stepped out (and over dog poo because EUROPE) and walked to my car. A guy who looked more lost than me drove past then stopped and said “Do you know where blah blah is?” I rolled back my shoulders smiled and thought “This is your chance Phil. Go for it”.
“Scuzie” I said back.
“Oh, you’re not from around here!” he said and drove off.
I was in Barolo so not even that could crush me.
A quick detour via Cadia
The discovery at La Crota last night, returned my first closed cellar so it was straight to Barbaresco. The distance between Barolo and Barbaresco is not that far but it is almost like a wasteland between. Perhaps it was the dismal weather and dark sky but I was not inspired.
That was until I hit Barbaresco. Turn right, curve right and up the hill and it was love. The vineyards cling to the sides of these steep and surprisingly high hills. My frequently stopping grey van must have been as curious as it was frustrating for the traffic behind. Coming right to the top of Barbaresco proper the lay of the land was fully exposed. It reminded me of a doona that had just been thrown on the bed. Peaks and troughs, seemingly random cuts into the hills and faces in all directions. And every single bit of the slopes crammed full of vines. I found the beginnings of a beautiful market in Barbaresco but no chance of an open cellar door. After a few more pics I was moving on to Barolo.
More uninspiring landscape between the two and and I was back in the vines. The vision was equally amazing but on a grander scale. Less doona and more sweeping hills. It was still dismal weather and no one was open.
It was time to journey to Bandol.
The road out of Barolo was narrow and got to a point where it was light controlled. It looked like road works until I was right next to it and it was less works and more half the road had just fallen away. Remember what I said about manicured decay vs dereliction?
From Barolo I drove down south along a road that became a pretty composition of curling bridges and short tunnels that wound slowly downwards to the Mediterranean coast and then turned towards France. James nearly sent me to Genoa but thankfully I followed the road signs instead of the Australian accented Tomtom. The sun started to show through I saw the coast. With the bright sun shining through the left hand side of the van it got to the point where it was almost time to take off my jumper. That was until I looked to the right and saw the snow capped Alps with the very top hidden in the clouds.
I steadily chugged along with the signs warning of ‘venti forte’ (and that, I found out, means strong winds… in the most terrifying way) and Neil Young doing his best to distract me. One last stop for Italian coffee was made.
Straight ahead and who knows how many kilometres away was a lightening storm doing its work.
Right where I was headed. But before that I had to stop for lunch… after I got back into France. The border crossing was mercifully a lot less stressful than going the other way. Then my phone burst into life. Lesson if they say a sim card only works in one country, they really, really mean it. The stop for lunch turned into a call to Kristina who was trying to do my job while I was away
having the time of my life working. With my poulet crudites, cafe latte (NOT cafe au lait lol) and the sun I felt recharged and ready to knock off the last of the trip.
Past Monaco, Nice, Cannes and on I went. Through one storm and out the other side. Then straight on into another storm. The only constants were the venti forte and Neil Young. A stop for gasoil did not go well when I couldn’t get the pump to work so I just carried on so as to not miss my host again.
Vines started to show up as Provenance was in sight. Then I hit Bandol. It looked nothing like a wine region and more like a town for rich people. Not a Bandolese vine or winery was spotted. The accommodation was very basic here but that was forgotten during a gorgeous walk into town as the sun returned. The sea was beautiful and the town had an almost party like atmosphere on the main drag. Walking through the back streets showed a lot of promise for dinner and eventually I hit a shop full of local products. Rory had asked for a crunchy green chocolate from Oorop (Europe in his almost three year ‘English’) and I found it. Green nougat that would actually survive the flights home. I received welcome directions to Tchin Tchin for a glass of lovely Bandol rose paired with olives, pretzel like treats, crunchy toast and tapenade.
Dinner was at Mare e Monti.
A beautiful restaurant in a Corsican tradition. My charming waiter spoke French like all the words had to be out as quickly as possible. I had no chance and just gave him a blank stare when confronted with an invitation to pomme de terre. Eventually my brain caught up but he was already declaring them potatoes. I said no and out came my Provence rose, fish de jour and I was in heaven. I ordered the fromage and he’d given up on trying with my French “Un, duo, trois, quatre. Sooft to ‘arde” There was much giggling around the room at my expense. It is OK because I was joining in too.
Time to leave and get a good nights sleep for tomorrow I visit Domaine Tempier!